Birthday boy McNally fuelled for the Duel

Craig McNally, Warrender. Hannah Miley is pictured below. Photos: Ian Rutherford
Craig McNally, Warrender. Hannah Miley is pictured below. Photos: Ian Rutherford
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WARRENDER swimmer Craig McNally hopes to mark his birthday weekend by making a splash at the Duel in the Pool.

The Capital star turns 21 this Sunday, but instead of concerning himself with getting “the key to the door”, all he is focused on is continuing to do well in the water.

Today and tomorrow, McNally lines up for Europe in the exciting Ryder Cup-style clash against the USA in the Duel in the Pool at Tollcross Leisure Centre in Glasgow.

The backstroke specialist will be up against the 200m Olympic champion Tyler Clary, and it is a challenge to relish for the Edinburgh youngster.

Then it will be Christmas, New Year and the start of the countdown in earnest to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next summer.

“This weekend is going to be great,” said McNally. “The US is a really strong team and I know I’ll have to drop my times quite a bit. But it’s a different style of swimming from normal.

“It’s head-to-head – just like the Ryder Cup – so it’s going to be real fun for both the swimmers and the spectators.”

If 2012 was a year of bitter disappointment at coming so near and yet so far from making the London Olympics team – he missed out by 0.1secs – then 2013 has seen the former Balerno High School pupil take a successful step into the big time.

He broke the Scottish 200m backstroke record in winning the British Championship in Sheffield and then went on to finish sixth for Team GB at the World Championships in Barcelona.

Last weekend, he was again in GB colours at the European Short Coruse Championships in Denmark and set personal best times in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke.

But his main focus is, of course, Glasgow 2014. “Everything is focused on the Commonwealth Games,” he admitted. “I am ranked No. 1 in the Commonwealth in the 200m backstroke and so every day is geared towards getting into the team and going for gold. Last weekend was good. I wasn’t rested so to set PBs was very encouraging.”

So how about those 21st celebrations? “It will be nothing big,” he assured me. “My birthday party will be quiet and controlled. Every day is all about preparing for the Commonwealth Games.”

Christmas will be another low-key affair for the capital star before he flies out next Friday with the rest of the top Scots for a training camp in Tenerife. “I had a week in Barcelona recently and it will be nice to get away again from the Scottish winter for some more warm weather training,” said McNally, who will be joined on the trip by his Warrender coach, Laurel Bailey.

McNally is one of four Scots in the European team this weekend. He is joined by Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson, Hannah Miley and Robbie Renwick – all colleagues from Edinburgh’s Red Sky stable – and there are 11 Brits altogether in the line-up. In-form Jamieson won a silver medal at the European Short Course Championships last Sunday and Renwick and Miley are both reigning Commonwealth Games Champions. Tollcross is also the venue for the Commonwealth Games and the Scottish trials in April. It is also Renwick’s home pool – and where it all started for Jameson, who is now based at the University of Bath. “The Duel in the Pool is going to be terrific,” said Renwick, a double winner at last weekend’s Scottish Short Course Championships at the Commonwealth Pool.

“There will be some really exciting swimming and it’ll be a really good warm-up for the Commonwealth Games. The crowd should get right into it.”